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Bye Bye Butterfly!

September 20, 2017 - Animal House, Latest

Bye Bye Butterfly!

With fall quickly approaching, the butterflies are getting ready to bear the winter and Irvine’s butterfly house is following suit.

Irvine’s first year of running a completely catch and release butterfly house was a huge success! Visitors could see totally native butterflies drinking nectar from native plants, see caterpillars munching away on their host plants, and see the beautiful jewelry-esque chrysalises glittering in the emergence chamber. Throughout the summer season, there were over 25 different Lepidoptera species (butterflies and moths) in the house at any given point. Some species included: Monarchs, Swallowtails, Clouded Sulphurs, Cecropias, IOs, Silver Spotted Skippers, and more!

We have currently reached the end of the season for the butterfly house as we begin winter preparations.

But where do they go now? Here in Maryland you don’t tend to see very many butterflies flying around in the winter. This is because most butterfly (and moth) species are not cold tolerant! In order to survive the cold and snowy winter, butterflies have adapted different methods to ensure their survival. Some will overwinter in their egg casings, some overwinter as caterpillars curled up in leaves, others overwinter in their chrysalis or cocoon, and others yet even overwinter in leaf litter and under logs as adults! Perhaps the most fascinating and well-known overwintering method is the great Monarch migration! During the month of September, the Monarchs that you see flying around are the 4th generation of butterflies, fueling up on nectar to travel all the way to Mexico. After making up to a 3,000 mile journey, the Monarchs cluster together in Oyamel Fir Trees to “sleep” away the winter. When it starts to warm up in the United States again the following spring, those same butterflies begin traveling back up into the states to breed and lay the new 1st generation. Irvine has tagged and released over 20 Monarchs this year, with the hopes of bumping that number to over 50 by the end of the month!

So while the butterfly house may be closed, be sure to stop in the lobby to check out the amazing little Monarchs that are emerging and getting ready for their great journey!

The following photos give an insight of what was to behold in the butterfly house this year!